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Traveling Around Reykjavik, Iceland

Aired November 13, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world, just under the Arctic Circle. Reykjavik is a small town. It's like a (INAUDIBLE) that's trying to be a city.

AUDUR OSP, BLOGGER, IHEARTREYKJAVIK.NET: One of the things Reykjavik is known for is the colorful houses, looks like toy houses.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fried fish is the most common snack of Iceland. And then, of course, we have the shark, fermented shark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is disgusting.



Hi. My name is Hawk. I'm an adventure tour guide with Nature Explorer and I'm going to take you on an amazing day trip out of Reykjavik.

So here's a map of Iceland and we're going to do one of the most popular day tours out of Reykjavik called the Golden Circle. It covers this area in the southwest of Iceland. Let's go, have some fun.

Driving out of Reykjavik is not like driving on a highway; within 20 minutes out of Reykjavik, you're seeing volcanoes, lava fields, waterfalls.

Now driving into Pingvellir National Park, one of two places in Iceland that's on UNESCO's World Heritage list. And this is also a place where the oldest running Parliament -- a Viking Parliament -- that was founded here in 930.

The Vikings, they would gather here for about two weeks in the summertime, go about their business, get married, divorced, buy a horse, sell a wife or the other way around and this place is also one of the best places in the world to see the tectonic plate boundaries.

You see this rock wall, this lava wall? We're standing on the edge of the North America plate. Now the ground that we're standing on is all lava. And the white little spots here are lichens. You can tell that it's lava. See how porous the rock is? And it's actually quite light.

Better put it back.

Iceland is a geologist's dream. We have eruptions 2-3 times every decade. And Iceland is basically just a buildup of eruptions. The cliche is it's land of ice and fire, but it's true. It's all volcanic, and we've got 13 glaciers. So you know, the cliche is really true.

Now we're on the other side of the lake. And we're now standing at the edge of the Eurasian plate. Iceland is growing about 2 cm every year, about an inch every year. We're taking over the world, slowly but surely.


OSP: Hello, I'm Audur Osp, and I'm a blogger at Today I'm going to show you a few of my favorite places in Reykjavik. Come with me.

This is (INAUDIBLE). This is the most prominent landmark in Reykjavik and it is the most visited site for tourists as well. Wherever you are in the city, you can always see it. So if you get lost, you can just kind of look at it and find your way back.

It's supposed to resemble like glaciers and mountains and parts of ice columns, which you can find everywhere in Icelandic nature. It's like the icon of Reykjavik.

There are 5,275 pipes in there. And when they were raising the money for the pipes, people of Iceland could buy a pipe. And so like my boyfriend's family has one of those pipes.

So here we are at the top of the church and this offers the best views of the city. The tower is 73 meters high. You can see all the colorful houses and rooftops from here and kind of like looks like toy houses. Every tourist that comes here, comes up here and takes a picture of this.

This happens every 15 minutes. You have to be aware of that.


OSP: Here we are at the Hand-knitting Association of Iceland, and this is the place you will be if you want to get one of these Icelandic jumpers.

These are called Lopapeysa, and everybody has one. Sometimes you come to a country and only the tourists are wearing these things. But here everybody wears them.

(INAUDIBLE). So this is as Icelandic as it gets.


PURIDUR ELNARSDOTTIR, HAND-KNITTING ASSOCIATION OF ICELAND: This one is from a customer who bought this 20 years ago. And now he says he wants a new one. So we start with the body and then we do the sleeves.

OSP: How many sweaters do you think you have knitted in your lifetime?

ELNARSDOTTIR: If I could tell you, hundreds, thousands, I think. I've been knitting for 35 years.

OSP: I've done this myself. It took me a long, long time to finish.

How long does it take you to finish one like this?

ELNARSDOTTIR: Eight to 10 hours.

OSP: It took me two weeks.


OSP: People should really look up when they're walking around Reykjavik, because you can see murals like this one all over the place. This one is done by an artist called Salavil (ph). And she has a lot of murals all over the city.

In Reykjavik, everything is (INAUDIBLE) free space people will do something on it and like it's a very creative city and this is part of that creative mind.

So here we see another piece by Salavil, basically an ongoing series that she's doing. It's about the natural kingdoms. And here you can see the animal kingdom. You know, you look at this piece and you think, oh, that's nice graffiti. But it's actually a part of a bigger idea. And it's like being in an open-air gallery, like it's a curated show that you can walk around in, enjoy for free.

When I walk around Reykjavik, I always see something new that I haven't seen before. And I just kind of discover new things every now and again. And this is the plant kingdom, as you can see. I really like how bright it is and colorful.

And what is special about the street art in Reykjavik is that it's everywhere. There's no special space for it. We just do it wherever.




RAGGA RAGNARSDOTTIR, OLYMPIC SWIMMER AND FASHION DESIGNER: Hi, my name is Ragga Ragnarsdottir. I'm an Olympic swimmer and a fashion designer from Reykjavik, Iceland.

I've been to the Olympics twice, to Aspen and Beijing. And I've been swimming for 20 years. So I'm very comfortable in the water.

We are in Vesturbaejarlaug in Reykjavik, in the west (INAUDIBLE) of Reykjavik. And this is the pool where I grew up and (INAUDIBLE) here every morning and every afternoon. And this is one of the oldest pools in Reykjavik.

They're geothermally heated. It's very normal for Icelanders to come here early in the morning. Now we're doing a little bit of pottaspjall, which is the "tub talk" here in Iceland.

Here is the pottaspjall. The pottaspjall is the "tub talk" and people -- strangers come here and sit and talk about the weather, politics, discouragements, whatever is the hot topic that moment. And right now it's the weather. So we've been talking about the weather for a while now.

It's normal for strangers to come and sit in the circle and just talk.


UNNSTEINN STEFANSSON, LEAD SINGER, RETRO STEFSON: Hi, my name is Uni, and I'm the singer of Retro Stefson. We're a pop (INAUDIBLE).

This is where I'm from and where I grew up. I like being here. You can walk around and you know everyone in the streets. Only it's a nice neighborhood. So we have a very vibrant (ph) music scene in Iceland and we have a lot of bands and a lot of people in the same bands. We have this festival, Iceland Airwaves Festival now for the 15th time. And it's my eighth time. I played in the first one when I was 16. And they wouldn't let me in to the venue even.


STEFANSSON: This year at the festival we have 217 bands and we have 900 shows, nearly 900 shows over the course of five days. And that's a lot.

There are a lot of foreigners (INAUDIBLE) tickets are sold to foreigners. Reykjavik (INAUDIBLE) a lot of touring areas. We have all these new faces. You can see (INAUDIBLE) every place you see on the street, since a lot of new faces. And yes, that's also nice.

Most of the shows now are also happening at the -- where we call off- venues and those can be fashion (ph) stores, hair salons and restaurants.

So this is one of the off-venues we were talking about, and it's called (INAUDIBLE). And it's a man's fashion (ph) store.


STEFANSSON: So here we are at Harpa, our new concert hall in Reykjavik. And tonight you will see all (INAUDIBLE) with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.


STEFANSSON: Hello, we are backstage now, before my concert here at Iceland Airwaves. And I want to introduce my band: Gylfi, the drummer, hello. This is Pordur (ph), the guitar player. (INAUDIBLE). My brother, Logi on bass. (INAUDIBLE). Sveinbjorn (ph) plays the synthesizer. We've been together now for eight years in January and this is our eighth festival.

The crowd is -- it's people that like dance (ph) music. It's a disco crowd.

All right. Now you're going to see me perform our (INAUDIBLE) show at Iceland Airwaves. This is my band, Retro Stefson.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from Norway and this is the best band ever. It's (INAUDIBLE). It's the second time we've seen them and (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're from Finland and we are here for the festival, of course.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an Icelander. I know them. I've heard them a lot of times. They are magnificent. They are brilliant.



PARELIUS: We're at (INAUDIBLE), one of the main attractions on the Golden Circle tour to see the geyser Strokkur. It goes off every 6-8 minutes or so, goes off as high as 30 meters. It's geothermal heat, which again then heats up the water, super heats it and then water needs to expand. And the only way it can expand is up.

It's a bit like you put a kettle on and (INAUDIBLE).

Now it's simmering somewhere under 80-90 degrees.

First you see these bubbles coming up to the surface. And then the water level rises and falls almost like it's breathing heavily. And then just before it erupts, it forms this amazing blue bubble until the surface tension breaks and all the steam goes up into the air.

That was a good one.

The Golden Circle is by far the most popular day tour out of Reykjavik. Lucky for us, the Icelandic country roads are very scenic. The scenery changes on every turn. So it's a very fascinating drive.

Now this is where the fun starts. Now we're getting off the tarmac. We're going onto the gravel road, which finally will lead us up to Iceland's second largest glacier, Langjokull. And to make the ride a little bit smoother, I'm going to soften the tires.

About 62-63 percent of Iceland is wilderness, uninhabitable. Notice how all the vegetation is gone. There's no life up here, which is one of the reasons why Neil Armstrong came here to practice for the moon walk.

Their main task on the moon was to do geological studies to decide which rock samples to take and what not. And how do you describe something that you've never seen?

We are now on Iceland's second largest glacier, called Langjokull, which means the long glacier, because it's long north to south, but not too wide east to west. But still, it's large enough to hold Manhattan Island 15 times. It's an accumulation of snow and ice. It's been accumulating over centuries.

And but the glacier is a living thing. It's constantly moving. The thickest part of it is around 400 meters thick. Now the only way to get here up on the glacier is by one of these vehicles that we call a super jeep, you know, with the big tires than can -- makes us able to float on the snow.

But once you're up here, you can, for example, go on a snowmobile, cruise the glacier, glaze across the ice cap, which is good fun, or stay within the comfort of the -- of our -- of the warmth of the super jeep.

Now the Icelandic Glaciological Society has been studying the glaciers for the last few decades. And they're all shrinking. It's just in the last 120 years that they have been receding, but really fast in the last 25 years or so, almost scary fast.

So come and see them before they're gone.


PARELIUS: I like driving my little super jeep. After a fun day of exploring glaciers, seeing geysers, volcanoes and waterfalls, I come to my favorite part of the job. It's time for the Icelandic car wash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we're here to try something all Icelanders love. You wouldn't think of it in a cold country, but we really love ice cream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will you have today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll have Reese's turkey spanner, (INAUDIBLE) soup, luggage (ph), chocolates, covers, caramel and (INAUDIBLE).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Iceland is (INAUDIBLE) cold but still we really, really enjoy ice cream. And it's a cultural thing. It's like it doesn't really matter what sort of time of the year it is or what time of the day it is. It's always time for ice cream.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really good.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is just the (INAUDIBLE) every weekend from 11:00 to 5:00. And people come here and sell their used clothes or new clothes. And we have book corner and this canteen and (INAUDIBLE) traditional legwear. It's really popular here. And we sell a lot of it, a little bit bulky, but not that much. It's really good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This (INAUDIBLE) they make -- they make from llama. (INAUDIBLE).

SIGGI GARDARSSON, KOLAPORTIO MARKET: We're selling traditional old Icelandic food, food that's been consumed in Iceland for ages and really kept us alive when the island was very isolated.

So we have horse meat in many different ways. A lot of people have heard about the dried fish and then, of course, the big controversial thing, which is the whale, (INAUDIBLE). Most people are interested in the shark or the fermented shark. It's like cheese, very old cheese.

You want to try the shark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's interesting.

GARDARSSON: Are you on Facebook?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't kiss me afterwards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's disgusting.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world and most western city in Europe. Iceland is mostly 63-65 degrees north, just under the Arctic Circle. In the wintertime, the Northern Lights are one of the top things to do in Iceland.

All you need to see the Northern Lights is really a dark place, which is why we went out of the city, get away from the city lights.

The auroras are created by electronically charged particles that are being shot out into space by the sun. It's called the solar wind. And when those electronically charged particles hit the outer layers of the atmosphere, that creates light. And we get some green, red, purple banners dancing across the sky. It's amazing.